A recent report from the children’s commissioner for England has revealed that thousands of children in care are living over 100 miles from their family and friends. With the emergence of this and similar reports, the importance of ensuring consistency in childcare cannot be understated and the role of child support workers has become even more vital.
What does the report reveal?
The children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, outlined the locational challenges children in care face in her report - Pass the Parcel: children posted around the care system - published on 24 December 2019.
It states that more than 30,000 children (41% of children in care, in England) are placed ‘out of area’ - meaning more than 20 miles from where they receive local authority funding. Of these, around 2,000 children are placed more than 100 miles away from their home area.
Over the last five years, the number of children in care living ‘out of area’ has risen by 13%. The report highlighted that over half of those placed ‘out of area’ had moved twice or more in the last two years.
While some children are placed further afield for their own safety - to protect them from criminal gangs or sexual predators - many children are placed far away because of a shortage of local places.
Increasing numbers of older children are also going into care, putting higher pressure on the number of spaces available locally.
How this report may affect support workers
Social care is all about helping people to maintain their independence, dignity and control. Children in care – especially those who have moved several times - need a friendly, reliable face they can turn to. This is essential for children who are placed far away from a familiar location and support network, as they are “at much higher risk of going missing”, according to the report.
Child support workers need to be aware of the vast changes a child may experience in different counties, such as urban to rural living. The report revealed that the London boroughs of Hammersmith, Westminster, Fulham, and Tower Hamlets sent the most children ‘out of area’. Kent and Lincolnshire take on disproportionate numbers of children from other areas.
More than half of those living out of their local area (52%) have special educational needs, and a quarter (24%) have social, emotional and mental health needs. The report states these are children “...who struggle to process change and need routine and consistency to stay calm and content. They may take a long time to build trust with adults and feel settled and yet this group are at risk of chronic instability at the hands of the care system.”
Child support workers need to see how this could affect a child’s sense of belonging. Some children are thriving in their new homes – those who aren’t, need carers to support them for a chance at being happy and less lonely.
Longfield is urging a review of the children’s care system as a matter of urgency.
Support work is a huge responsibility; workers provide emotional care and practical help to those in need – especially children’s support workers who have an additional responsibility to help children with their educational development.
The job itself is physically, mentally and emotionally demanding and requires sensitivity, patience and understanding. However, this is all worth it, as it's one of the most rewarding careers out there.
If you are looking for your next career in social care, or looking to recruit a dedicated individual for your team, contact your local REED Care & Support branch.